Every year students are given an opportunity to find out how secure their campus really is.
The 2009 Annual Campus Safety and Fire Report was released this past month, detailing criminal offenses that occurred on campus, off campus, in residence halls and on public property during the calendar year. These offenses included hate crimes, arrests and fires.
The William and Mary Police Department completes an analysis of all crimes reported. Data is also collected from College of William and Mary officials, faculty and staff advisors and student groups as well as the Office of Student Affairs and the Athletic Department. To ensure that duplicate reporting does not occur, names and dates of offenses reported by various officials are compared.
“We work very closely with the William and Mary Police Department to calculate the crime statistics on campus,” Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 said. “The crime statistics include criminal offenses, which the campus police compiles, as well as administrative offenses reported by Student Affairs.”
Administrative offenses are defined as misdemeanors that do not require police involvement but must be reported to the College, such as alcohol violations submitted by Resident Advisors.
Under the Jeanne Clery Act, the U.S. Department of Education requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep annual records of and submit a report for all crimes committed on campus.
The Clery Act was mandated in 1990 after the murder of Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery, when the U.S. Department of Education realized that many colleges were concealing crime statistics to better appeal to prospective students. The act serves as a means of keeping colleges and universities honest in their reporting of crime statistics.
“Our philosophy [at the College] is that the penalties for underreporting [are] too high to risk. Along with [the penalties] comes a public loss in faith and trust in the system, which is not worth it,” Campus police chief Don Challis said. For every omission of a crime in the department’s final report, the William and Mary Police Department is fined $250.
The main issues in this year’s Annual Campus Safety and Fire Report included burglary and alcohol-related offenses.
This past year, there were over 209 liquor violations on campus, not including drunk driving or drunk in public citations.
In reality, the number of student alcohol-related incidents is much higher. Because of the Clery Act, only underage possession charges are required to be included in the report. Students in violation of alcohol policies are referred to the Dean of Students Office, rather than criminally charged for underage drinking or possession.
Theft was another significant problem on campus in 2009.
While burglary, which is defined as stealing while breaking and entering, must be stated in the report, larceny, the wrongful possession of the personal property of another, does not.
The most common crimes on campus are crimes of opportunity, most notably larceny, and especially bike theft.
According to Ambler, there have been numerous instances of bikes being taken from outside academic buildings, laptops going missing in the library and phones being taken off tables in the dining halls.
“With so many people in such a small area, we have a fairly victim rich environment — that is, students have iPods and laptops and they aren’t the best about safety,” Challis said. “We have without a doubt the best and brightest students here, but because they are very comfortable here, they don’t do simple things like lock their doors or report crimes.”
The Honor Code binds every student at the College, but not everyone abides by the tradition.
“Although the Honor Code is all well and good, I think it provides a false sense of security. We’re told from the beginning that you can trust it completely… you don’t realize until something happens to you that you still kind of have to watch your back,” Becca McCray’14 said.
While the College works to enforce laws and policies through the work of campus police, Student Affairs and other College departments and organizations, it also sponsors educational and developmental programs, such as self-defense and alcohol awareness seminars, designed to increase the safety of the community.
The William and Mary Police Crime Prevention function encourages students and employees to be responsible for their own security and the security of their property, and the College community is asked to report any unusual circumstances that might be observed.
Crime prevention tips from campus police stress constant awareness of one’s surroundings. Tips include not propping residence hall doors, locking dorm rooms, avoiding lending keys or ID cards in residence halls, and staying alert while out and about on campus.
The College community is asked to support police by reporting any unusual circumstances that might be observed.
“We need students to take responsibility for their own safety,” Challis said. “Students are starting to call [the police department] more and more when they see suspicious things, and that’s a very positive step.”